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Ivy Blog

Ian Youngblood is Thriving After Brain Cancer Diagnosis

The year of 2020 was unlike any other. That was certainly true for 29-year-old Ian Youngblood of Arizona. While working as a nurse, Ian went to New York City to help with the influx of COVID-19 patients. Just months into his assignment, he began experiencing excruciating headaches, nausea, and decreased motor function.

In 2020, Ian went to New York as a nurse
to help treat COVID patients

Prior to the onslaught of symptoms, Ian was a healthy young man. He served as a former firefighter in the Seattle area before pursuing a career as a nurse. But Ian’s symptoms persisted, landing him in the intensive care unit thousands of miles from home. Tests and scans revealed the worst possible outcome — he had brain cancer. 

Within days, he underwent emergency surgery to remove the tumor and spent the next month recovering. Once he was cleared to travel, he returned home to Arizona to begin an aggressive treatment plan. It included months of radiation and chemotherapy. Ian elected to seek care at Barrow Neurological Institute because of its internationally renowned reputation and world-class physicians. “It was important for me to have a comprehensive treatment team all working together to help me get through this,” said Ian. “I can’t thank my doctors at Barrow enough for being in their care; they were always accessible and, to this day, I can call them anytime.”

His treatment team is led by neurosurgeon Nader Sanai, MD, director of the Ivy Brain Tumor Center and chair of neurosurgical oncology at Barrow; neuro-oncologist Ekobe Fonkem, DO, director of the Barrow Neuro-Oncology Program; and radiation oncologist Igor Barani, MD, chief of stereotactic radiosurgery at the Institute. “From the get-go, Ian was ready to explore every possible avenue of treatment so he could get back to serving others. We continue to monitor him and support him wholeheartedly in his journey,” says Dr. Sanai. 

Ian and his dog Kinje

It’s been 18 months since Ian’s diagnosis, and his prognosis is stable. He currently visits Barrow for routine MRI scans to see if there are any changes to the tumor.  

With his 5-year old American Great Dane named Kinje by his side, Ian continues to live each day to the fullest despite his battle with brain cancer. An avid sports enthusiast, who played rugby in college for Grand Canyon University, Ian remains active. He loves to hike and practice yoga. “I’m not going to let my diagnosis get the better of me, so I’m very mindful about being positive and active on a daily basis,” says Ian. 

In honor of Brain Tumor Awareness Month this past May, Ian organized a fundraiser at a local yoga studio to benefit the Ivy Brain Tumor Center. He believes the clinical trials at the Ivy Center will help contribute to finding a cure one day. “The Ivy Center is a frontrunner in the brain cancer space. Their Phase 0 clinical trials are focused on trying new therapies that haven’t been done before to get ahead and find a cure, rather than trying to chase the disease. It’s pretty amazing,” says Ian.  

Ian practices yoga to stay active and mindful

Ian shares his personal story to raise awareness about brain cancer. He has been featured on the TODAY Show and PEOPLE.com, among many other media outlets. The Bonnie Fang Foundation, established in 2002 to recognize heroic nurses, honored Ian for his deployment to the frontlines during the pandemic. 

He remains optimistic about his future and plans to continue serving others as a medical provider.

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